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[This is another in our series on the How and Why of Eating Healthy.]
Almost every day I have patients ask me what they should weigh and how much they need to lose. I will admit that sometimes I am a bit evasive, saying such things as, "Start working on your weight, and I'll tell you when to stop."
Why am I not always more direct? Because folks can often be pretty unrealistic about their health and their weight. Usually people are shocked when I tell them what an ideal weight would be for them. While shock is their first reaction, folks usually say something like "Oh, I'll do that, it's easy for me to lose 50 pounds and you'll see when I come back in three months."
Man, oh man, do I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said that (and another dollar for those who return in three months and have not lost any weight at all). I have no doubt that this mentality comes from fad diet books and pills that repeatedly claim that people can easily lose that much weight in such a short period. Look, if it were true there wouldn't be such an obesity problem: people would lose weight and keep it off.
It's not true.
It is true that you can lose weight, keep it off and be healthier, but it takes time and it takes a little bit of effort. It also takes you having realistic goals. What sort of targets? Generally speaking, no more than a pound a week.
Now I understand that "12 pounds in 3 months" is not a very good sales pitch, but I believe that "52 pounds in a year" is. Why? Because there's great research to show that rapid weight loss (like 50 lbs. in 12 weeks) results in rapid weight gain: the so-called "yo-yo" diet.
The good news is that the research also supports your working at steady, careful, successful change - whether it's for weight loss or just being healthier. (50 pounds in 50 weeks works.)
So, time to set your goals. If it's eating healthier, take out your calendar and mark off the changes by week. How can you most easily make this a part of your life? Here are some suggestions for each weekly goal:
If weight loss is your goal, write your target weights down for each Monday on the calendar. The key is to be realistic while being ambitious -- balance what you want to achieve with what you can really accomplish.
Lastly, keep in mind that eating better and being healthier is not about 3 weeks from now or even 3 months or 3 years. This is about making significant lifelong change. Plan for that and you'll be successful for sure.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
June 29, 2009
Last updated: 06/29/09